It's official: nature nurtures happier families

We all know fresh air is good for us and even a short walk can lift our spirits — think dappled sunlight, fallen leaves and the rustling of trees — but according to latest research, spending more time appreciating the natural world is a “green prescription” to good health.

So-called green prescription is based on the idea that physical activity in nature results in positive outcomes for wellbeing. And in a report by the University of Essex for The Wildlife Trust, findings suggest that people experiencing problems such as anxiety, stress and depression, reported feeling “significantly better, both emotionally and physically, after taking part in outdoor nature conversation projects”.

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To bring the concept of “green prescribing” home, here are six different ways to get the kids involved in nature-based activities and shine the light on a greener, and brighter, world…

1 Take time out from the school run to stop by the park

It may feel like an effort, but saving some stale bread to feed the ducks on the way home, or lobbing their wellies into the back of the car for a splash through the puddles to release any pent-up energy, will do you and the children the world of good.

2 Give the kids a plant they can call their own

A spiky succulent might not need much love and attention (and isn’t very child-friendly), but taking care of a flowering bulb — watering and watching it grow — or starting a herb garden is really easy. And you can always take inspiration from The Herbs children’s TV show (featuring the animated adventures of characters in a herb garden) and give them names such as Parsley the Lion and Dill the Dog.

3 Eye spy with my little eye

A fun way to get the kids into the garden, or anywhere in nature, is to make a list of things you can see — whether it’s something in the trees, a shiny garden tool or a creepy crawly. It’ll encourage them to explore, and if you’re short on outdoor space or it’s raining, it can always be a list of things you can see from the window.

4 Introduce nature books to bedtime reading

Stirring their imagination with pretty pictures of butterflies, exotic birds, ladybirds, squirrels, trees and flowers will make the kids that bit more interested in what’s going on outside, and it’s a great building block to identifying bird species and their squawks.

5 Sun, moon and stars

With the clocks going back this month and the long, dark nights setting in, getting the kids to do some star-gazing and thinking about the planets and the shape of the moon will make them more inquisitive to learn more, and no one’s ever too old for twinkling stars… we all love to dream.

6Feed the fish

While most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a fish pond at the bottom of the garden, an aquarium or fish tank will bring stress-free pleasure to all the family. Easy on the eye and easy to maintain, appreciating tropical fish and supporting natural plant growth in an underwater landscape can teach kids a lot too.

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